Tis the season to be extra vigilant

29 November 2010

The lead-up to Christmas is a busy time for Auckland Airport, and more specifically, for the hardworking MAF Biosecurity New Zealand team. All sorts of weird and wonderful items start appearing in luggage, often innocently intended as Christmas gifts for friends and family.

Some are definite no-no’s; others look risky but pose no threat whatsoever; many need to be assessed to find out if they pose a risk.

Some items look suspicious when being examined on an x-ray machine but present very little risk. For example, Biosecurity Inspectors see plenty of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges leading up to Christmas, which can easily be mistaken for real fruit. To add to the confusion they even have segments. Christmas puddings also look dubious on an x-ray machine.

Other items pose a much higher risk. Things like Christmas decorations containing pine cones and greenery can carry pests or disease, as can flower arrangements, along with Christmas hams and all types of meat, fish and poultry.

In fact, food of all types can carry pests or diseases. Travellers at Christmas time can often forget that they are carrying Christmas presents on behalf of family or friends. It pays to know what the contents are.

Whether fresh or dried, living or dead, large or small, common or rare, all plant material and food items need to be declared. There is no law against bringing risk goods to New Zealand, as long as they are correctly declared on the passenger’s Arrival Card so that they can be inspected.

A $400 fine for an undeclared piece of fruit may seem like a lot of money, but if it were carrying fruit fly, the effect on New Zealand in industry costs and loss of trade could be millions of dollars.

If you have friends or family planning to visit this holiday season, make sure they pay a visit to www.biosecurity.govt.nz